Eskom load shedding already in effect: analyst

Electricity analyst, Chris Yelland says Eskom is already operating on a form of load shedding, and has warned that as the winter crunch comes, it’s likely to get worse.

Yelland, who is the MD of EE Publishers was speaking in an interview with Moneyweb on Monday (1 April).

Last month the Public Enterprise Minister Malusi Gigaba cautioned South Africans to prepare for a difficult winter as electricity supply remained constrained.

“We need to worry about how we are going to go through this winter,” Gigaba said.

This followed a statement by the state power utility urging people to use power sparingly.

“We appeal to all customers to reduce their electricity usage and to switch off all non-essential appliances as the power system is extremely tight at present, particularly during the evening peak hours between 6pm and 9pm,” Eskom said on 8 March.

When questioned if the country would experience load shedding this winter, Yelland said: “It’s quite possible, when you’re operating with reserve margins as low as they have been – and they have been as low as 1% when the normal practice is 10% to 15% – what it means is that the risk of load shedding increases.

“I must say that I think one must accept that at this time in fact demand is already exceeding supply and that is why Eskom runs its open cycle gas turbines on an extended basis,” he said.

Electricity buybacks

Yelland also highlighted Eskom’s electricity buyback scheme, in which the utility has been paying large clients, such as an aluminum smelters, to halt production in order for it to supply energy to other users.

Late last month, however, national Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) said it would not allow Eskom to continue with this programme as it cost too much despite putting Eskom under further demand pressures.

Yelland said that Eskom was exercising the interruptibility clauses in its contracts with BHP Billiton due to the fact that demand has already exceeded supply.

“So in fact Eskom are already interrupting BHP Billiton and I had a word with Hilary Joffe (Eskom spokesperson) on this yesterday, they are already exercising them to the limit and that means approximately two hours per week. So already there is a kind of load shedding going on.

“When you’re exercising your interruptibility clause in the contracts, when you are paying people to switch off, when you are going on radio begging people to please reduce power now and the country responds by reducing power by 500 megawatts just as the result of a radio advert it is a kind of load shedding. So at the moment demand is exceeding supply and as the winter crunch comes it’s likely to get worse,” Yelland said.

Medupe

Yelland also expressed his doubts over the operability of Medupe power station by the end of the year.

“If one has to listen to what people say at Eskom and also just look at their body language as they say it but I think it’s looking more and more likely that it will not be up and running,” he said.

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Eskom load shedding already in effect: analyst